By Portrait of a Scribe
"Where there is death, there was life. And where there is life, there is hope."
Sometimes, the future looked bleak. Usually it was when he was elbow-deep in somebody's guts, trying to clamp an artery shut with his bare hands, or when somebody lost a leg or an arm and he could do nothing about it. Other times, it was when they were all sitting around the supper fire, and someone would say something that let him know that they still remembered him how he had been at Toccoa when they would all race up Currahee together just to defy the taunts of twice-cursed Captain Sobel. At those times, Gene would smile and wish he could still remember what his companions did about him. It was times like those, when he could not remember the heat and serenity of the bayous, or the warmth and gentle softness of Vera's touch, or the lazy peace of a Sunday afternoon, that the future looked really bleak.
Bastogne had been hell. That was for sure. Gene was still recovering from his exhaustion, though he knew he would not get the chance for a good night's sleep for some time to come. When he did get the chance to rest, he was haunted by the thought of all the men he had failed to save, of the woman he had befriended and then lost, of Toye and Guarnere and Muck and Penkala, and of Compton, and all the others he would never see again. Sometimes, Gene thought he would go mad from it all, and then something would happen and he'd be distracted for a while with another cry for help, after which the slow descent would inevitably begin again. Now was one of those times.
Easy Company had just captured Foy, and Gene had just finished up with the last injury in the platoon aside from his own minor ones. They had lost a lot of good men that day, mostly due to the incompetence of Lieutenant Dike. Several had died in his arms. Gene felt each loss keenly. He reached for one of the makeshift bandages he had scrounged from the aid station back in Bastogne, and was just beginning to tend to himself when a local burst into the aid station, blood covering his hands and smeared on his face.
"Médical!" the man exclaimed, his eyes searching the room. "Docteur!"
"Je suis ici," Gene replied slowly, reluctantly stuffing the bandages into his aid bag. If someone needed help, they would have to come before his own wounds, even if it would only mean yet another corpse on Doc Roe's operating table. "Où est le problème?"
"Par ici." The man took Gene by the elbow, and led him out of the aid station and down the street. On their way, they passed Captain Winters, to whom Gene gave a salute.
"What's the problem, Doc?" Dick asked, returning the gesture. Gene could only shrug.
"Came into the aid station shouting for a doctor," he explained. "Figured I'd try to help out."
Dick glanced from Gene to the Frenchman and back as the man moaned anxiously and tugged at the medic's sleeve.
"What's the problem, monsieur?" Dick asked, looking at the stranger as he butchered the word's pronunciation. The man huffed something, wrung his bloodstained hands once, and then spread them helplessly, glancing worriedly down the street.
"My sister, monsieur," the Frenchman replied. "She is… how you say? She is… not well? She is much bleeding."
Gene felt his heart sink like lead into the pit of his stomach. Civilian casualties were always difficult to deal with, but a woman? This man's sister? The stranger was young, perhaps in his late teens or early twenties at most. That meant that his sister was most likely young, as well, and Gene thought of his fiancée for a second, and of his sisters back home. Vera was waiting for him back in England, and his sisters were waiting back in Louisiana. What would he do if he lost any of them?
"Monsieur." The man tugged at Gene's shirtsleeve again, and he blinked himself out of his dark thoughts to find that the stranger was gesturing impatiently at the street again. "De cette façon, s'il vous plaît."
Gene glanced briefly at the ground, trying to banish his melancholy thoughts, and then he turned to Dick again and nodded.
"Sir," Gene said, and then he followed the man down the street. It was about twenty feet before the steady footfalls fell in with his, and he glanced curiously over to find that Dick had accompanied them. "Sir?"
Dick gave Gene a tight smile.
"Thought I might see if there's anything I can do," he explained, clapping Gene on the shoulder. Gene almost returned the smile, but the thought that he was probably about to deliver another dying person into the hands of cold death stayed it, so he instead settled for a grateful nod.
"Thank you, sir."
Dick did not reply, but his grip on Gene's shoulder remained strong, and it was a steadying touch that helped Gene steel himself for what was to come. He was grateful for the strength that Dick so freely offered.
Soon enough, the man led them to a house on a road not too far from the aid station. In reality, they had only traveled about a block and a half or so, but Gene's dread had made it seem like a much longer distance. The house was full of bullet holes, like many of the houses were, but it was mostly intact. Obviously, the Krauts had missed it when they shelled the place. It had a bright blue door. The paint still looked new.
"Venez, ici," the man explained, opening the door and rushing inside. Gene could hear a low, feminine groan as the man disappeared into a room off the main foyer, and it made him hesitate. He almost ditched the place. After all, what was one more fatality on the long list of victims whose blood stained his hands? Only Dick's hand on his shoulder stopped Gene from turning around and finding some corner to curl up in until it was all over.
"Doc?" Dick questioned softly. Gene took a deep breath, steeled himself, and walked inside, striding purposefully for the room where he had seen the man disappear into. Dick followed at his heels.
What awaited them in there made Gene stop in his tracks in complete and utter surprise.
He had expected to find the woman dying. He had expected to see her gutted, entrails everywhere; or bleeding out from a gunshot wound somewhere on her body; or wounded in some other way that would be a sufficient cause for panic. However, he had not expected to find that she was unharmed save for a graze on the outside of her right calf. He had not expected to find her lying on her back on the table, her face red and splotchy and drenched in sweat as she strained. And he had most definitely not expected her to be heavily pregnant, and in labor.
The Frenchman turned to him as he and Dick entered the room, looking up at them from where he was holding his sister's hand and petting her hair and murmuring reassurances to her.
"Monsieur, sil vous plaît, elle a besoin d'aide," the man said, voice desperate. "Elle a besoin d'aide, et je ne sais pas quoi faire."
Gene blinked himself out of his stupor and turned to Dick, suddenly all business because he would not let an uninjured woman die on his watch, even if he had almost no idea how to go about delivering a baby.
"Get a pan and linens, haul a lot of water, and start boiling," Gene ordered, pulling away and rushing over through the door opposite the way they had come in, through which he could see a water pump. To the Frenchman, he asked, "Combien de temps at-elle été en travail?"
As Dick hopped-to, Gene scrubbed his blood-caked hands in a bucket of frigid water that he pumped from the faucet, after which he went about the room, wracking his brain for what few scraps he knew about childbirth that his mama had taught him. He would need a knife, right? And a fire would be good to heat water with, right? Yes, yes, and what had his mama said about the baby's positioning, again? Ah, shit, but he could not remember.
The hours passed slowly, and Gene struggled as hard as the woman did to deliver her baby. There were several times when he was sure he had done something wrong: said the wrong thing, touched the woman the wrong way, hell, even breathed wrong in the tense, tense air. In the back of his mind, he was sure that someone was probably looking for them. After all, Dick was a company CO, and Gene himself was, well, he was obviously a very popular man. But all Gene's world consisted of for the three hours that it took him to get her baby free was the woman's struggles, her screams, her blood on his hands, and then, finally, the weak, steady mewling of a newborn baby girl as he held her in his arms for the first time.
When that tiny, red infant first landed in his hands, Gene was not entirely sure how to handle it. She was not breathing on her own at first, and she was so slippery with amniotic fluid and blood that he almost dropped her. But then Dick was there with a towel, and the fabric gave Gene enough traction that he was able to slap the girl's bottom (another thing he dimly remembered from his mama's tidbits) and get her to cry before he wrapped her up tight to keep her warm. She was breathing. That was the important part.
And then she grabbed his finger, and Gene froze. Her grip loosened as she opened her tiny, tiny hand again, but then she reaffirmed her grasp and released a warbling mewl, toothless gums open wide in a demand for something he could not name. She had a little button nose and a thick head of black hair. Her head was even misshapen from coming through her mother's birth canal.
But she was the most beautiful thing Gene could ever remember seeing.
"What'll you name her?" he dimly heard Dick ask. The woman's brother translated the question, but Gene did not hear the answer. All there was, at that moment, was the little baby he held in his arms.
The little life.
A while later, Gene was sitting by himself in the aid station, staring off into space. His aid kit sat on the floor beside his feet, and a roll of bandages was clasped, forgotten, between the partially-relaxed fingers of one hand. That was how Dick found him when he went searching for the medic. Gene did not notice his superior officer, at first, lost in his thoughts as he was, but he blinked when Dick crouched in front of him, a slightly concerned look upon his freckled features.
"You okay, Doc?" Dick asked. Gene blinked again, and then shook himself awake.
"Yeah," he muttered, rubbing his forehead with one hand. "Yeah, I'm fine."
Dick huffed out a little chuckle, and reached out to point at the wound on Gene's neck where a bullet had grazed him.
"Don't look fine to me," Dick admonished him lightly. "You should have someone bandage this before it gets infected."
"You offering?" Gene retorted, more sharply than he had intended. He immediately sighed when he realized he had snapped at Dick, and glanced apologetically at his friend. "Sorry, sir. Guess I'm more tired than I thought I was."
Dick just nodded mildly and took the bandages from Gene's hand so that he could begin the process of fixing his friend up.
There were times when the future looked bleak.
"So, what'd she name her?" Gene asked after a few seconds of contemplative silence. Dick met his dark gaze with a knowing blue one, and smiled.
"She named her Nadia," he replied. "Her brother said it means hope."
Gene thought about that for a moment. Then he nodded slowly.
"Yep." Dick grabbed Gene's chin between his thumb and forefinger, stilling him. "Now stop moving before you mess up my fantastically terrible bandaging job."
There were times when the future looked bleak. But this was one of the other times, when he realized that the future held the potential to be something worth living for.
Disclaimer: I don't own the TV series Band of Brothers, and I have only the deepest, undying respect for the real veterans. I'm only toying around with the fictional portrayals of these heroes, and mean no disrespect.
This came to me randomly- I honestly have no idea how or why, but just the thought of seeing life amongst death just... Well, the dichotomy contained therein proved irresistable.
EDIT 4-4-12: Changed Winters's and Sobel's ranks from Lieutenant to Captain after realizing that I got them wrong for the time frame I'm working in.
French translations are from Google- please don't kill me, I have no French experience.
Médical! Docteur! –Medic! Doctor!
Je suis ici. Où est le problème? –I'm here. Where is the problem?
Par ici. –This way.
De cette façon, s'il vous plaît. –This way, please.
Venez, ici. –Come, here.
Monsieur, sil vous plaît, elle a besoin d'aide. Elle a besoin d'aide, et je ne sais pas quoi faire. –Sir, please, she needs help. She needs help, and I don't know what to do.
Combien de temps at-elle été en travail? – How long has she been in labor?
Hope you enjoyed my first Band of Brothers fiction. Feel free to drop a line or two, if you want.
Thanks for reading!
-Portrait of a Scribe